There's not a quarterback in the NFL playing better than Brett Favre right now. As a result, the Green Bay Packers are a team to be reckoned with in the NFC. The Pack is back and, in a mild upset, the last guy who took them to a Super Bowl has a chance to do it again.
|Brett Favre completed 27-of-34 passes for 337 yards Sunday vs. the Ravens.|
Don't get me wrong, nobody buried Favre. But there was a feeling he might not be around to see the Packers get good again. The Packers made it to two Super Bowls and then experienced the expected decline, losing key players to retirement and free agency. In 1998, after two straight 13-3 seasons, the Packers went 11-5 and lost the NFC wild-card game.
As time marched on, there were other signs as well. Coach Mike Holmgren went to Seattle, Ray Rhodes stopped by for a disastrous 8-8 1999 season, and the Packers missed the playoffs for the first time since 1992. Widely respected general manager Ron Wolf retired last year after new coach Mike Sherman turned in a nice 9-7 season but, again, no playoffs. It looked like the Packers were in for some time in the valley and that Favre would be gone, or nearly gone, as they made their way back up the hill.
It made sense, too, because most of the other dominant quarterbacks of the 1990s were already gone: Steve Young, Troy Aikman and John Elway. Favre, though a bit younger, is in their class in every other way, so you just figured he was heading for home. No knock, no slight and no disrespect, but football players get old fast -- it just seemed natural.
Wrong. The Packers got better in a hurry and Favre has plenty of game left. And he is doing it the way he did in his prime. Favre, 62-11 at Lambeau Field, has taken the concept of home-field advantage to a new level. You may attribute it to the weather or the fans or the ghosts of Lombardi, Nitschke and Starr. No, it's just No. 4.
I had a real interest in Sunday's Packers-Ravens game. How would Favre do against a defense many consider to be one of the best of all-time? How would he rebound from a tough loss against Tampa Bay in which he tossed three damaging interceptions (including one at the goal line that Tampa ran back for a touchdown)?
Well, he bounced back pretty strongly. I think the Packers and Favre learned something from the Bengals Week 2 upset over the Ravens -- if you stretch the Ravens out a bit, you have a chance. For that, you need personnel. Favre can't do that alone. On his own, Favre is worth two or three wins every year; get him some legitimate help and you are looking at a very tough team to beat.
The Packers took it away from the Ravens four times Sunday. When you give the ball back to Favre four extra times, well ... you'll probably lose.
The Ravens, like any team, are susceptible to turnovers, and the Packers took it away from them four times Sunday. When you give the ball back to Favre four extra times, well ... you'll probably lose.
Favre completed passes to nine different receivers and led four scoring drives for 295 yards on 31 plays against a fearsome defense. His quarterback rating for the game was 137 -- close to perfection. Against the Ravens? Yeah, he's slowing down. Right.
As usual, the Packers' defense takes a back seat to Favre. The same thing happened when they went to the Super Bowl. It's Favre's team. But no doubt the Packers are a good, balanced, complete football team. And, despite all the new faces, they are not heading into uncharted territory. No. 4 knows exactly where he's going.